Toronto Blue Jays Rumors

Toronto Blue Jays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

East Notes: Red Sox, Rogers Centre, Franco, Harang

There’s been quite a bit written about the Red Sox‘ lack of an ace, but as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes, acquiring an ace-caliber pitcher is harder now than ever before. Speier looks back at the top 20 pitchers in terms of WAR from the 2004 season and notes that not only did pitchers remain elite later in their careers, but they were also more readily available in both free agency and trades. The average age of the top 20 pitchers in WAR has dropped from 29.5 to just under 28 in the year 2014, and none of the top 17 were signed as free agents. One talent evaluator noted to Speier that teams simply aren’t trading established aces anymore. The evaluator continued, “Very few come from free-agent signings given that, traditionally, their age was such that when they signed, they’re aces in age but not in [future] performance.”

Here’s more from the East:

  • The Red Sox have continued to field a lineup that stresses “grinding” at-bats, but at present have yet to deliver much power, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. That continues something of a trend from last year, says MacPherson, who notes that unearned runs have propped up the team’s run scoring totals.
  • Complaints about the Blue Jays‘ Rogers Centre turf have been hard to ignore, with Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reporting on Twitter that the Orioles actually considered forfeiting a recent game rather than taking the field. Baltimore has contacted the league, per Encina, though Jeff Blair of Sportsnet.ca tweets that the commissioner’s office has not received any formal complaint.
  • Top Phillies prospect Maikel Franco has been on a tear at Triple-A, but the team still does not have immediate plans for a call-up, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Service time remains a factor despite the fact that he saw action at the MLB level last year; as Zolecki explains, by waiting until approximately mid-May, Philadelphia can earn itself an extra year of control. With the big league club seemingly going nowhere and fellow youngster Cody Asche playing well at third, there is little reason for the team to move quickly on Franco.
  • There have been some limited bright spots for the Phillies, of course, and veteran righty Aaron Harang may be chief among them. The 36-year-old righty has tossed 26 1/3 innings of 1.37 ERA baseball, allowing a meager .800 WHIP and striking out 21 batters. Despite an excellent 2014, Harang signed a one-year deal for just $5MM (which he discussed recently with MLBTR’s Zach Links). He is starting to look like a rather appealing summer trade candidate for clubs that need to fill in at the back of their rotation.

Blue Jays Designate Steve Tolleson

The Blue Jays have designated infielder Steve Tolleson, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. With the move, the club has cleared roster space for the activation of outfielder Michael Saunders.

The 31-year-old Tolleson saw just 12 plate appearances this year for Toronto, picking up three hits and a walk. He saw his most extensive MLB action last year with Toronto, slashing .253/.308/.371 in 189 plate appearances. Tolleson has seen limited action in two other seasons.


Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.


AL East Notes: Navarro, A-Rod, Hanley

Though Bernie Williams hasn’t played in a Major League game since 2006, the longtime Yankees outfielder won’t officially hang up his glove until Friday, when he’ll sign his retirement papers prior to the Mets/Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.  Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes that Williams is also scheduled to have his #51 retired by the Yankees later this season and be honored with a plaque in Monument Park.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro has been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring, the team announced.  Navarro has been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate since the Jays signed Russell Martin, and Navarro has himself said that he’d prefer an everyday role elsewhere, though he’s committed to the Jays.  The veteran has received semi-regular playing time this season as Mark Buehrle‘s personal catcher and part-time DH duty.
  • With Alex Rodriguez closing in on his 660th career home run and the $6MM contract bonus associated with tying Willie Mays’ mark, Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman of the New York Post look at how the impending dispute between A-Rod and the Yankees will play out.  It’s possible the arbitration hearing to decide the matter wouldn’t take place until the offseason, Davidoff/Sherman write, as “there is no reason to speed this case along, especially because neither the Yankees nor A-Rod seem anxious to mess with the positive vibe around the controversial slugger.”
  • Outfielder Ramon Flores enjoyed a big Spring Training and he’s tearing up Triple-A pitching, yet as Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog writes, the Yankees don’t currently have a spot for him at the Major League level.  New York would have to trade someone to create even a bench spot for Flores, and dealing Flores himself might not net a big return since he has no MLB experience.
  • Hanley Ramirez has looked defensively shaky in his new left field role, yet Red Sox manager John Farrell told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he doesn’t plan on removing Ramirez for a better fielder in late-game situations.  “I want to show him the confidence to bring him along….I think the benefit of not taking him out far outweighs, at least at this point and time, taking him out because of his continued growth and us showing faith in him in left field,” Farrell said.  Needless to say, the Sox have a lot invested in Ramirez’s development as a left fielder since (at least for this season) they have nowhere else in the field to play him; Pablo Sandoval (3B), Xander Bogaerts (SS), David Ortiz (DH) and Mike Napoli (1B) are locked in at other possible positions.

Blue Jays Release Andy Dirks

The Blue Jays have released outfielder Andy Dirks, according to Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.  Dirks has recently undergone back surgery and will likely be sidelined for the entire 2015 season.

This is the second back operation in as many years for Dirks, as his prior surgery (and a couple of hamstring injuries during rehab) limited him to just 14 minor league games during 2014.  Dirks hit .276/.332/.413 in 1063 plate appearances with the Tigers from 2011-13, hitting slightly better against right-handed pitching (career .751 OPS) than lefty pitching (.721 OPS).

The Jays claimed Dirks on waivers from the Tigers in October then non-tendered him to avoid paying him a projected $1.6MM (as per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz) in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  Toronto then re-signed Dirks to a minor league deal in January.  Were it not for his back problems, Dirks looked like a solid contender to win a part-time role with the Jays this season as a left-handed bat who could contribute in left field, DH or in a pinch-hitting role.


East Notes: Marlins, Stammen, Francis

Marlins manager Mike Redmond is rumored to be on the hot seat, but MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the team doesn’t need a new manager, just better starting pitching. Marlins starters have a 5.23 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, and they’re reeling from the loss of Henderson Alvarez with a shoulder injury. Still, the Marlins have enough talent to rebound from their 3-10 start, Frisaro says. Here are more quick notes from the East divisions.

  • Nationals pitcher Craig Stammen had surgery Sunday to fix two torn flexor tendons in his forearm, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. He is likely to miss the rest of the season and will be able to return for Spring Training next year. In the last three seasons, Stammen has been a workhorse in the Nats’ bullpen, pitching 242 2/3 innings in that span. He’ll make $2.25MM in 2015 and is arbitration eligible next winter for the last time before free agency.
  • Jeff Francis is back in the big leagues with the Blue Jays, and he’s hoping to stick around even though he knows it might be tough to do so, John Lott of the National Post writes. The former Rockies starter pitched 3 1/3 innings Sunday, but he’s 34 and throws in the upper 80s. He’s now pitching for his fourth team since the start of the 214 season, having appeared with the Reds, Athletics and Yankees last year. Francis, who is from Canada, calls playing for his favorite childhood team a “thrill” but says it’s one he’ll mostly enjoy after he’s done playing.

Dodgers Notes: Alvarez, Startups

Last week, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs noted that he’s heard from multiple internaitonal scouts who believe the Dodgers have an agreement with Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez for a signing bonus of around $16MM. While he cautioned that no deal is completed and other teams still have interest, it’s a significant development in the market for Alvarez, who is waiting to hear whether or not he will be cleared to sign in the current signing period or in the 2015-16 period, which begins on July 2. The Dodgers likely wouldn’t sign Alvarez until the upcoming signing period, McDaniel noted. Here’s more out of Los Angeles.

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ latest piece on Alvarez seems to line up with McDaniel’s findings, as Heyman lists the Dodgers as the favorite to sign and adds that he’s heard L.A. has already made an offer to Alvarez. Heyman lists the division-rival Diamondbacks as competition, along with the Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals. Texas, of course, can’t sign Alvarez until July 2, as they’re restricted for signing a player for more than $250K in the current signing period. The Blue Jays seem unlikely to sign him in the current period even if he’s cleared, as they’re rumored to have a $4MM+ deal with Vlad Guerrero Jr., and going over their pool to sign Alvarez in the current period would prohibit them from finalizing that deal.
  • In an outside-the-box move, the Dodgers are planning to invest up to $1.2MM in ten startup companies, Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Specifically, the Dodgers will focus on startups with ideas that might help make them more money or improve their team. That might mean they’ll invest in companies working in fan engagement or customer relationship management, but they could also invest in sports analytics. “We’re in this to find products and companies and technologies that solve our problems but are ultimately scalable,” says Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain. “We’re not really going to cross over into the proprietary, competitive-advantage area. But, hey, listen, if somebody comes to us with something that is incredibly proprietary … we might pull it out of the program.”

AL East Notes: Francis, Balfour, Betts, Schoop

The Blue Jays announced today that they’ve selected the contract of veteran left-hander Jeff Francis and optioned fellow lefty Colt Hynes to Triple-A Buffalo. The 34-year-old Francis, a native of Vancouver, will add another Canadian player to Toronto’s roster, joining Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey. Francis will hope for better results than he’s seen over the past three seasons, during which he’s posted a combined 5.84 ERA in 203 1/3 innings with the Rockies, Reds, A’s and Yankees. Toronto already had an open 40-man roster spot after designating Todd Redmond for assignment last week.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Recently designated right-hander Grant Balfour spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about how he wished his second run with the Rays had yielded better results. Balfour admitted to shying away from his fastball after the realization that the pitch lacked its typical life. The Australian righty wouldn’t state for certain whether or not he’d pursue another opportunity immediately: “Maybe a little bit of rest will be good for me. … I’m not thinking too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
  • After speaking to multiple scouts about the futures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes that Betts has leap-frogged Bogaerts in the eyes of the baseball industry. “I don’t think you could find anyone in baseball who would pick Bogaerts over Betts right now,” one scout told Silverman. Another said Betts “clearly” has the better bat of the two, while a third scout said that in 20 years, Betts “makes quicker adjustments to his game than anybody I’ve seen.” All of the scouts to whom Silverman spoke are quick to clarify that Bogaerts still has star potential, but the glowing reviews add to the meteoric rise of Betts over the past 12 months.
  • Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is likely to miss longer than the minimum amount of time on the 15-day disabled list, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old Schoop suffered a Grade 1 partial PCL tear and an MCL sprain, and while surgery is unlikely, an exact timetable is unknown. Encina looks at Anthony Rendon as a possible comparable, noting that Rendon has just resumed baseball activities six weeks after spraining his left MCL.

Quick Hits: Scully, Hendriks, Nationals

Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully is celebrating his 65th anniversary in the booth tonight. His first game was at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park featuring Robin Roberts against Don Newcombe. Incidentally, Roberts is also in the Hall of Fame while Newcombe is often discussed as a snub. Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Blue Jays did little to address an obvious bullpen problem over the offseason, writes Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca. However, the club might have lucked into a valuable solution in the form of Liam Hendriks. The 26-year-old is averaging 93 mph with his fastball – up about two mph from his career norm. Through six innings, he’s allowed two hits and one walk while recording nine strikeouts. Before anybody anoints Hendriks the closer, it’s worth noting that he has a low 5.3% swinging strike rate. At some point, that rate will either increase, or his strikeout rate will decrease.
  • The Nationals must learn to thrive under walk year pressure, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. When Jayson Werth entered his walk year with the Phillies, then-manager Charlie Manuel advised him to test free agency (in more colorful language). Now the Nationals have four key players on the road to free agency. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span could all leave after the season, which gives 2015 a make-or-break feel for Washington. Werth and Max Scherzer have advice for their new teammates – acknowledge all the sources of pressure.

Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Buehrle, Greene

The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal.  Here’s more from Heyman’s column..

  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
  • Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
  • Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
  • The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring.  Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start.  The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
  • One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now.  While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system.  Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him.  It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
  • The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.

Zach Links contributed to this post.